Craig Stammen, College Graduate
by Amanda Comak
PHILADELPHIA — There may be a moment on Sunday afternoon when the bullpen phone rings and Craig Stammen’s name is called. He’ll rise from his seat in right center field at Citizens Bank Park and begin warming. His focus will be on only one thing: getting the Philadelphia Phillies’ batters out.
Stammen, 30, has completed his coursework at the University of Dayton and his class will walk in their graduation on Sunday. While Stammen won’t be there in person to don a cap and gown, he will join an elite fraternity of Major League Baseball players who possess a college degree from a four-year university.
“I am relieved that it’s over and that I don’t have to do anymore tests or homework,” Stammen said Saturday, cracking an earnest smile.
“And when somebody asks me if I’ve finished college I can say, ‘Yes.’ I won’t have to explain to them why I haven’t finished, what more I have to do and all that. I can say, ‘Yes.’”
A 2005 selection of the Nationals’ in the First-Year Player Draft, Stammen left college after his junior year at Dayton, with 15 credits remaining, to pursue his baseball career. But finishing his degree in Entrepreneurship was something the right-hander always hoped to do. He began working toward that goal this past offseason, taking classes in person, and finished his coursework online once Spring Training began in February.
“It was a lot of work,” Stammen said. “A lot more work during the season than I thought it was going to be. I just didn’t realize how much I don’t like doing anything during the season other than baseball, so it was kind of hard to stay connected to the class and stay motivated, but I got through it.”
On a normal week, Stammen said, he’d save most of his schoolwork for one designated day. He put a bit less emphasis on tests, feeling that if he grasped the subject matter he would be able to score fine, but had multiple research papers due at the end of the semester that each took about four or five hours of his time.
The fact that he won’t be able to walk with his class didn’t bother Stammen too much. His family will be busy on Sunday, anyway, as his younger brother graduates from Ohio State.
“I technically graduate a few hours before him — and he’s seven years younger than me,” Stammen said with a laugh. “So they’ve got their own graduation celebration to go to… I was never big into all the hoopla of putting a cap and gown on, anyway, so I’m all right being at our game.”
Not being there for the graduation itself won’t dampen the accomplishment, though.
Among his colleagues, Stammen is joining a small fraternity. The Nationals now have at least three players with college degrees on the active 25-man roster, including Kevin Frandsen and Aaron Barrett. Ross Ohlendorf, who is on the 60-day Disabled List, also got his.
But a Fox Sports survey from 2012 found that only 39 Major League players, 4.3 percent, had graduated from four-year universities.
While a large number of players are drafted out of high school, several Nationals players are close to their degrees, but just not there yet. Right-hander Doug Fister said he is three classes away, and right-hander Drew Storen spent his first offseason as a big leaguer back at Stanford University working toward completing his. Stephen Strasburg queried Stammen on the process and the logistics this season.
Barrett took 15 hours of classes in the 2011 offseason and took his final three classes during the 2012 season when he was at Single-A Hagerstown. He finished that fall while he was playing in the Arizona Fall League.
But given the rigors of the baseball schedule, and how important the down time in the offseason is, it’s certainly not an easy thing to accomplish.
Stammen will be happy to add his name to the list.
“(My parents) have told me (that they’re proud of me) the whole time,” Stammen said. “They’ve been super supportive and I think they’ll both be pretty proud.”